« MSOutlook Won't Resolve Hyperlinks | Main | Gitzo Tripod and Wimberley Mount »

February 13, 2011

Fiddling with the Canon EF 600mm f/4.0L IS USM Supertelephoto Lens

Above: Male American Kestrel near Morrison, Colorado.

So, now that I've had a couple of days to fiddle with the new lens, I've noticed that the settings are fairly similar to the Canon EF 100-500mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM lens. So, I was able to start using it right away. I understand almost all of the controls.

The focus range switch has 3 positions instead of 2. So, this is a little more involved than what I'm used to. Plus, in the never ending Quixotean quest for multi-culturalism, the Celsius scale, and the Metric system, the measurements are all in meters. So, essentially, you have to look at your subject, make an estimation of the distance in feet (sorry, we're in the United States here - people don't think in meters), convert this guesstimate into meters, and then figure out which of the 3 range selections is the most appropriate.

The Metric System (used in Uganda, Namibia, and Iran).
a) 5.5 m to ∞
b) 5.5 m to 16.2 meters
c)16.2 m to ∞

Now, quick...there's a bird out there in front of you...probably about 30 or 50 feet away. Which setting do you use? Hahaha. Exactly. Now you see the game we're playing. It sounds simple enough, but it's not easy.

The Not-Metric System (Whatever it is that we use - who knows)
a) 18 ft to ∞
b) 18 ft to 53 ft
c) 53 ft to ∞

So, it's sort of important to know how far out 18 ft and 53 ft are, so that you can get the camera to focus quickly and accurately. Especially, when you're trying to shoot something as fickle as a bird that isn't overly thrilled that you're pointing a mortar-sized lens at it.

Picture this...you're standing on the side of a road with no shoulder holding about 15 pounds of camera above your head, pointing up at the sky, trying to keep your balance. Now, you have to look through the lens and find what you're trying to photograph. This is not easy.

Today, for instance, I was shooting the 600mm lens with the Canon 1.4x teleconverter, so you have the same field of view as an 840mm lens. It's one thing to see the subject with your eyes. Finding him inside the lens is a bit more challenging, shall we say.

Trying to do this and give the impression that you know what you're doing is next to impossible.

Yesterday, I was shooting this field of prairie dogs and some woman asked me "How big does the eagle look with that lens?" Of course, I had no idea there was an eagle in the vicinity. I thought the DDT had killed them off back in the '60's.

A more humble person might well have said "What eagle?" But not me. I couldn't stand to have a housewife in a mini-van one-up me, so I just smiled and said "not very big". I should have just walked over and handed the camera to her. She's probably more qualified to operate it than I am.

To steady the lens, I've taken to killing the truck engine and leaning the camera on the window or on the top of the Tahoe. You really do need something to rest this beast on. Maybe I'll pick up a bag of kidney beans or rice next time I'm at the grocery store. Those actually work remarkably well for tripods.

The 800mm lens has a much shallower depth of field than my other lenses, of course. And this is something I struggled with yesterday. Today, however, it dawned on me that more light translates into a greater depth of field if you just crank down the aperture a few f-stops. So, when I spotted a Male American Kestrel, I shot him for a bit and then cranked down the aperture so that, hopefully, I got some decent shots of him.

Posted by Rob Kiser on February 13, 2011 at 12:26 PM


Post a comment

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)